Boston High School: Cornelius Tyson

Roosevelt Ave. rivalry renewed in D1 West Final

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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The Western Mass. Division 1 boys' basketball final resembles more of a city title matchup between Springfield rivals Putnam Vocational and the defending state champion, Central.

The two schools -- separated by a little more than a mile -- have each played 22 games, but have yet to share the hardwood until Saturday's championship bout at Curry Hicks Cage, on the campus of UMass Amherst.

When the Beavers topped West Springfield, and the Golden Eagles outlasted Holyoke in Wednesday's semifinals in Springfield, it set the stage for the biggest question in the region to be answered -- Who is better, Central or Putnam?

"I've been wanting to play them all year," Central captain Kamari Robinson said on Thursday.

At different points this season, each has been regarded as the top team in the area. It with Central's No. 1 preseason ranking in ESPNBoston.com's statewide poll, then transitioning to Putnam's local dominance, not dropping a game until Feb. 12 -- a loss to West Side with a shorthanded lineup.

"Both (teams) are talking," Robinson said. "We're going to talk of course, but we both have respect for each other."

That respect has developed long before the season began in November. It started in the city of Springfield, with players like Robinson and Putnam guard Dizel Wright sharing a travel team while playing with and against Beavers junior forward David Murrell over the years.

Yet for 32 minutes, Springfield bragging rights are one the line, something both city schools realize and would like to hold over the other one for the next calendar year.

Putnam played the first of two seminfinals at American International College Wednesday night and took the rubber match against West Side, cruising to a 64-42 win. After the win, when asked who the Beavers wanted to win the next game, Murrell made it clear.

"Hopefully Central," Murrell said after pouring in a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. "Everybody is saying that we can't beat anybody, hopefully we can prove to Central that we can win Western Mass."

Murrell and senior forward Kayjuan Bynum (16 points, 14 boards) have frontline that, although undersized, can battle with Central's 6-foot-5 Robinson and 6-foot-8 Chris Baldwin.

Match that with the team's willingness to defend, especially on the perimeter, it could end Central's reign over Western Mass. The forwards for Putnam and Central will battle inside, but the guard play is still critical, as it usually is in Western Mass. Central replaced three of four rotation guards from last season's championship run.

Putnam is young but long on the perimeter, with sophomores Jonathan Garcia and reserve guard Ty Nichols. Wright will likely be placed on Central's Cornelius Tyson, the hero of the 2012 state title win over Brockton with 16 points of four 3-pointers, all in the second half.

Putnam opened a new school this fall, and since William Shepard took over the program four seasons ago, he has begun to usher in a new basketball power in the birthplace of basketball.

Central has won two of the last four Western Mass. titles, and has been the home to of the finest players to come through the state. Ten-year NBA veteran Travis Best comes immediately to mind; ironically, his most memorable high school performance came in a 1991 win over Putnam, in which Best scoreed 81 points in a 143-85 victory -- records that stand to this day.

Putnam's success is shadowed in comparison, reaching the sectional final for the first time since 1984.

The Beavers have displayed they don't shy away from a big game, with the best example being Wednesday's win over West Side. The two split the regular season games, though, in both occasions neither team was at full strength. In the semifinals both teams had their best squads on the floor and Putnam proved to be the superior team.

"They play hard, all 32 minutes," Robinson said.

Putnam is looking to shift the powers in Springfield city ball and has that chance Saturday. The question will inevitably be answered. Is Central add to its tradition and remain the city's top team or will Putnam silence the doubters and officially take the top spot in Western Mass.

"It'll be good to play them and see who's really No. 1," Bynum said.

D1 West: Springfield Central 52, Holyoke 48

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –- Some say the hardest thing to do in team sports is beat the same team three times. For Springfield Central, this task was made that much harder by a scrappy Holyoke team that refused to go away for 31 minutes and 39 seconds, before the reigning MIAA Division 1 State Champions finally closed out their 52-48 D1 West semifinal win at American International College.

The Golden Eagles got a balanced effort from their starting unit with Kamari Robinson, Chris Baldwin and Cornelius Tyson notching 11 points apiece while cousins Ju’uan and Cody Williams dropped in 10 and nine respectively. Holyoke’s Justin White had 18 points and seven rebounds to pace Holyoke.

The game was ugly early on, at least from Central’s point of view, as Holyoke jumped out to a 9-1 lead thanks in large part to five turnovers by the Golden Eagles.

“When you play a team for the third time, especially when it’s a league opponent, it’s going to be ugly it’s not going to be pretty,” Central coach Mike Labrie said. “That certainly was not pretty.”

The two teams combined for 13 first-half turnovers with nine of them coming from Central. Holyoke featured a zone defense that kept the ball out of Baldwin and Robinson’s hands and allowed the Purple Knights to lead for all but 4.2 seconds of the half.

On the last possession of the half, Tyson drove the lane, drew a foul and made the layup to give Central their first lead with 4.2 seconds remaining in the first half. The basket capped a 13-5 run that gave Central a 26-25 lead at the break and showcased Tyson’s big-game ability.

“We don’t know [what changes],” Robinson said of Tyson’s ability. “In the regular season he’s a completely different person then when big games come around he smartens up and plays more like him. He just calms down a little bit.”

Tyson’s big-game ability took center stage again later in the game when, after missing three consecutive free throws, he rebounded to hand out two assists on back-to-back plays. The first, a three by Ju’uan Williams, gave Central a 46-45 lead with 1:39 to play while the second, a two by Cody Williams, gave the Golden Eagles the breathing room they needed at 48-45.

A Cody Williams steal with 1:05 to play led to a one-and-one opportunity for Baldwin, but he would miss the front end and give Holyoke lift. Luis Vazquez would miss what would have been the game-tying three and two free throws from Ju’uan Williams appeared to ice the game.

However, on the next possession Guillermo Godreau-Rivera drove the lane and drew a trip to the line for what should have been two shots but became just one after Baldwin blocked the ball off the backboard on the way down and forced a goaltending call.

Godreau-Rivera made the free throw, closing the gap to 50-48, but two free throws from Robinson meant Central would return to the Western Mass. Championship.

“Perseverance,” Labrie said. “We persevered down the stretch against a tough opponent for the third time this year.”

All-Springfield Finale: For the second consecutive season the final game of the Western Mass. boy’s basketball schedule will be between two Springfield schools. After besting Springfield Commerce last year at the Curry Hicks Cage, Central will take on a formidable Springfield Putnam squad in the Western Massachusetts Championship on Saturday.

Putnam advanced to the final by beating West Springfield 64-42 in the first game of the semifinal double-header. With Central’s tough non-league schedule, the two schools did not meet during the regular season making Saturday’s game a winner-take-all battle.

“I know they’re just as hyped about the game as we are,” Kamari Robinson said. “We’re psyched to play each other and to see who’s better and settle all the mouths and the beef...and all the talk. We’ve got a chance to play each other and we have to play good.”

In January, Central played Manchester (Conn.) and West Springfield at the Hoophall Classic for two of their non-league contests. The other two came at the IAABO 130 Classic last month, where they lost to Central Catholic and Lynn English. With so much on the line –- the sectional championship, bragging rights, city supremacy –- Saturday’s contest should be an instant classic.

“I think it should be a great ball game,” Labrie said. “They work extremely hard, they match up well with us size wise. It may not be pretty, but it should be fun.”

The Confident Cousins Williams: Cody and Ju’uan Williams are most at home on the football field, starring for back-to-back Super Bowl finalists at quarterback and wide receiver, respectively. But this season they have become two of the most important players on the court for Central on the basketball court as well.

The biggest reason for their emergence: supreme confidence.

“They don’t know what pressure is. They make a mistake it’s over. It’s done. It’s passed,” Labrie said. “They’re very confident in their abilities and I’m very happy to have them on the team.”

The cousins Williams combined to score seven of Central’s last nine points for the game with none bigger than Ju’an’s three with 1:39 to play. The three came after back-to-back misses from three and was just the second he hit for the game.

Cody made his impact with a baseline jumper that stretched the lead to three and a steal on the next possession that almost iced the game for the Golden Eagles. Ju’an’s pair of free throws with 25.7 seconds to play snapped a cold streak from the line.

“We work as a team all the time and we have the No. 1 and 2 players in Western Mass. but if other people need to get called to step up that’s what we need to do and we did that tonight,” Cody said.

Cody and Ju’uan have already won one Western Mass. championship this year. What’s one more for the confident cousins?

IAABO 130: Lynn English 81, No. 10 Springfield Central 73

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
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LAWRENCE, Mass. -– Erick Rosario was asked about his flammable night in the IAABO Board 130 Classic, a career-high 38 points on 13-of-19 from the field in a surprise 81-73 upset of No. 10 Springfield Central in Central Catholic's Memorial Gymnasium, and the shy Lynn English sophomore mumbled a few terse clichés.

But when the 5-foot-10 guard was asked about the team’s frenetic pace, and whether it was tiring (it wasn’t), his head coach Mike Carr couldn’t help but chime in from beyond his shoulder.

“Tell them about the stairs,” he said with a smile.

Rosario let out a giggle. “We go hard,” he said of the daily post-practice routine, an intense 10-minute session involving sprints up and down the four-story steps of his high school.

At times, the Bulldogs’ pace became more chuck-and-duck than run-and-gun. Other times, it was just plain blitzkrieg. All of it overwhelmed the Golden Eagles (15-3) more and more as the game wore on, turning a 35-31 halftime lead into double-digits as the forced turnovers and ensuing fast breaks continued to mount.

In all, the Eagles committed 37 turnovers for the game, unable to cleanly break the full court man-to-man press of the Bulldogs (14-5). Things began to unravel late in the third quarter, after Central’s Ju’uan Williams darted through the lane with a euro-step and completed a three-point play to tie it at 44.

The Bulldogs took a 54-51 lead into the final frame, and shot out of the gates with a 12-4 run to build a comfortable cushion. Fueling the run was the play of Rosario and junior Freddy Hogan, who combined for 10 steals in the final frame.

One particular sequence at the start of the fourth put them over the top. First, Central’s Josh Malone was trapped near the scorer’s table by Rosario, who then lobbed the ball downcourt to Hogan for an easy lay-in. The next time down, Hogan came up with a steal near the volleyball line and threw a quick dish to Rosario.

The next time down, Rosario shimmied a defender with a euro-step and foul, completing the three-point play. That was followed up with another Rosario strip-and-rip fast break layup, followed by an unforced error from Central for a 67-55 English lead with 5:03 to go.

“If we’re not playing that style, we’re not a very good basketball team,” Carr said. “I think we wore them down in the first half, with that style I don’t think they’re used to it, the up and down. We’re growing, we’re getting better as a team. We’re young. I just think it’s our style, it’s starting to make us a better basketball team.”

Central head coach Mike Labrie conceded that the pressure -– in particular, the on-ball pressure from Hogan and Rosario – was at a level they’re not accustomed to.

“We haven’t faced that kind of pressure all year,” he said. “So, I think this is a good experience for us. It’s kind of embarrassing, frustrating, but I think we’ll be better for it.

“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a team that’s committed that many turnovers in a game. But you’ve got to give credit, they kept after it too. They didn’t get tired. We weren’t strong with the ball at all. We shot over 60 percent from the floor, so when we got shots up we were in good shape.”

Senior center Ben Bowden was the only other Bulldog in double-figures, with 16 points. Hogan turned in an impressive stat line otherwise, tallying seven steals and four assists, while sophomore guard Stevie Collins and junior forward Danny Lukanda pitched in with eight points apiece.

Central, dressing just nine players, had four of its five starters in double-figures. Senior wing Kamari Robinson led the Eagles with 22 points, while Cornelius Tyson (15), Ju’uan Williams (13) and his cousin Cody Williams (11) all played significant hands.

The Eagles’ fifth starter, 6-foot-8 sophomore phenom Chris Baldwin, had just seven points on 3-of-5 from the field, but was big on the defensive end. He totaled 15 rebounds -– all of them defensive -– and blocked five shots.

Running –- to a stand still: At times, the Bulldogs’ tempo resembled something from Paul Westhead’s famous “seven seconds or less” squads at Loyola Marymount, heaving long outlet passes upcourt immediately after a basket and wasting no time on the shot clock.

Other times, surprisingly enough, they were patient with the ball, running the clock down and working to get an open look. For all the talk of steal after steal, and frenetic speeds up and down the court, English also demonstrated patience in the half-court.

“It’s something we talk about, too. We run the flex quite a bit, and it’s a methodical offense,” Carr said. “It takes a while. Sometimes during the course of the season, because we’re so up and down, the first pass in the flex they shoot it. The last couple of days we’ve improved on that, and they did a great job today coming off screens.”

Running –- to a marathon: After each practice, Carr has his team run up and down the four flights of stairs in the school building, adding on to an already-heavy concentration on conditioning.

“Even our basketball drills, our first hour is up and down the court,” Carr said. “Every drill, we do man-to-man defensive drills…It’s just constant, we don’t stop for an hour, then we get our shooting in.”

That grueling routine paid off in games like tonight’s, where the backcourt looked like it could run all night. Hogan and Rosario were relentless in the Bulldogs’ full court man-to-man pressure, picking up their man immediately, staying on their hip and denying clean passes.

“This style, you give up layups, you give up open looks,” Carr said. “It’s more that we feel we wear teams down as the game goes. I feel we’ve had some success with that.”

Coming on strong: On paper, the Bulldogs figure to be a preseason favorite in 2013-14, with the graduation of just one player – Bowden, who is signed with Vanderbilt’s baseball program for next year. But lo and behold, since their Jan. 9 loss to Danvers , they have won 10 of their last 11 games, the lone blemish a one-point loss to Beverly.

That Danvers loss put the Bulldogs at 4-4 on the season. One month later, they’re looking at potentially a No. 6 seed in a loaded Division 1 North bracket, good enough to earn a first-round home game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of where we’ve come from the beginning of the season to now,” Carr said. “I said at the beginning of the season, we’re a young team and we’ll get better. Over the last week or two, it’s been a steady progression. I think our tempo, and everyone’s understanding of what we want, is why we’re starting to have success.”

Up Next: With the win, Lynn English moves on to Monday's finals against St. John's Prep, which survived a late rally from Central Catholic in the nightcap before a capacity crowd, 64-62. The boys final goes down at 7:15 p.m. and will conclude the two-day tournament. Springfield Central will face Central Catholic in the consolation game, at 3:45 p.m.

Recap: No. 10 Central 76, Cathedral 59

February, 5, 2013
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Springfield Central relied on the towering presence of Chris Baldwin and Kamari Robinson to notch the team’s 10th straight win, defeating city rival, Cathedral 76-59 at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield on Tuesday night.

Robinson added another double-double to the books with a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds. Baldwin, the 6-foot-8 sophomore, flirted with a triple-double -– 25 points, 18 rebounds and eight blocks.

Central (12-2) started off with great outside shooting, but focused the ball in the middle more in the second quarter to take a 36-23 lead heading into halftime over Cathedral (10-4).

The Golden Eagles held a 13-point lead before junior guard Ju’uan Williams went to the bench with his fourth foul midway through the third.

The Panthers responded with a 7-2 run, cutting the lead to single digits. The third quarter surge was led by senior Cullen Burke, who scored five straight points before finding Neil Begley for an easy two.

From that point on, Baldwin and Robinson scored the next 16 Central buckets, pushing the lead back up to double-digits.

“We tried to be more aggressive on the offensive boards and just tried to go down low as much as possible,” said Baldwin.

The two forwards scored the majority of their points around the rim or from the free throw line, using their size to finish at the bucket or get second-chance opportunities from offensive rebounds.

“We feed off each other,” said Robinson. “When we get going the team gets going.”

Robinson scored his 26 points in the final three quarters after being held scoreless in the first. The guard play gave Central an early lead, thanks in large part to Williams’ three 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Central held a 19-13 lead heading into the second quarter. Robinson’s baseline jumper (his first points), Baldwin’s layup, and a Robinson putback gave Central a 6-2 run to start the quarter.

“Frankly I’m happy we played them here,” said Central head coach Mike Labrie. “This place kind of neutralizes their (Cathedral’s) shooting. They can shoot the hell out of the ball.”

Williams had 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter while Cornelius Tyson dished out seven assists. Darrick Boyd led Cathedral with 19 points with a pair of assists. Burke chipped in 15 while Lou Garcia, the team’s second-leading scorer, was sidelined with foul trouble.

Central at full strength: It was clear that this team was going to take a few shots early on. That this team shouldn’t be written off in December because they’ll be there come March. That’s how it’s starting to shape up for Mike Labrie’s team.

“This is the first time we were at full strength tonight,” said Labrie. “We were a little rusty.”

Tyson was the hero from last season’s state championship game, is now back on the floor, rejoining the team on Feb. 1. The 6-foot-1 senior could be the season hero this year, adding a lift to the backcourt.

“It feels good to be back with the team,” said Tyson. “(It was tough) at first. I think we’re playing pretty well.”

“It’s great,” added Baldwin. “He’s finding us. He’s another scoring option for us.”

With Tyson on the floor, it takes most of the ball handling duties off of Ju’an Williams, who played very well in his time running the offense. Williams helps stretch the floor as he did on Tuesday with a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Despite the double-figure win, Central rarely had its starting five on the floor due to both Tyson and Williams dealing with foul trouble.

Old Central, new Central: Numerous times in 2011-2012, Central changed the game with second half runs propelled by pressure defense from three talented defensive guards. As Tyrell Springer graduated this past June, the team has transformed from a perimeter-oriented team to one that plays through the post.

“This is a totally different team,” said Labrie. “That’s what we’re trying to focus on– pound it inside offensively, crash the offensive boards, get quality stops on defense and limit them to one shot.”

Labrie had traded in the pressure defense and fast break points for second chance opportunities and offensive rebounds, coming from his 6-foot-8 sophomore and his 6-foot-5 senior captain.

Central will need the ability to control the boards, especially with city foe Putnam Vocational Technical Academy showing how tough they are inside with their own two-headed monster – Kayjuan Bynum and David Murrell.

However, with Tyson back in the lineup, shades of last year’s team could reemerge for the Golden Eagles.

We don’t have the pressing team we had last year,” said Labrie. “With Corny, we may be able to do a little bit more than that.”

New-look No. 1 Central ready to defend throne

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Springfield Central survived its first test on Monday night, taking everything a scrappy Agawam team had and came out with an 82-67 win.

Central led by nine at half and opened up a 17-point lead after three quarters. The Golden Eagles' lead quickly dwindled as the Brownies started the fourth on a 19-8 run, but in the end it was too much Central. The two big men inside, sophomore Chris Baldwin and senior Kamari Robinson, strung together back-to-back buckets in the final minutes to ice the game.

But still, it’s a reminder that the defending state champs -- a team that hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent in over a year (25 games) -- will get everyone’s best shot this season.

The experience and chemistry of last year’s team is gone, but the talent and potential is there, it’s just a matter of when the Golden Eagles can put it all together.

[+] EnlargeCentral Hoops
Terrence Payne for ESPNBoston.com Chris Baldwin (left), considered one of New England's most promising sophomores, joins returning All-State forward Kamari Robinson in Central's loaded frontcourt.
“The inexperience is the factor," head coach Mike Labrie said. "The key to the season is how fast we can grow together. We’re behind the eight ball, but no one is going to feel bad for us.”

Robinson, the senior captain, was the only returning member from last year’s championship team to suit up on Monday night. Senior guard Cornelius Tyson -- he of the memorable second-half outburst in the MIAA Division 1 state title game, knocking down four 3-pointers -- is academically ineligible.

However, Central still made noise during the summer, when the 6-foot-8 Baldwin enrolled at Central, after spending last season at the Hillside School (Conn.). Alongside, the 6-foot-5 Robinson, Central has one of the best frontlines in the state and it showed on Monday night. Robinson had a team-high 31 points, while Baldwin added 24 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocked shots.

“I was happy about it,” said Robinson on Baldwin’s transfer. “It helps me out a lot. It’s going to take a lot of stress of me and put another scorer in our arsenal.”

Baldwin already holds a Division I offer from UMass, which he picked up in the summer, as well as interest from Boston College and Boston University.

Early on in the season -– both in a scrimmage against St. John’s of Shrewsbury last week, and Agawam tonight -– teams have thrown zone defenses at the Golden Eagles, limiting the number of touches Baldwin can get in the post. Likely all teams Central faces this year will play some sort of zone pressure, which makes the guard play more critical for the Golden Eagles.

In Monday night’s win, Baldwin was doubled on the block and in the high post. But through the course of the game, when the Central guards could penetrate the zone, it became easier to free up Baldwin and Robinson.

“I think we have some pretty good guards, guys that can step up,” said Baldwin. “Overall we should be good with us in the post. We’ll need shooters to step up.”

For Labrie, the production of Tyrell Springer, Chris Prophet, and Lee Turner can’t be replaced, but they are finding contributions from several guards that made their way up the ranks of the Golden Eagles program, such as Josh Malone, Ju’an Williams, and Elliott Johnson.

“Some jayvee players got the privilege of playing up and I was one of them,” said Malone, a sophomore guard, who was part of an undefeated jayvee team last year. “So I got the experience playing against guys like Tyrell and Chris.”

In his first varsity start, Malone added 15 points, including a trio of three-pointers.

“He did better than I thought he would,” said Robinson. “He was hot from deep and played good defense.”

Defense was the trademark of Central’s run last year -- whether it be the second-half run the Golden Eagles put together to take down St. John’s of Shrewsbury in the state semifinals, or the seven-point halftime deficit tuned into a 19-point win in the state final against Brockton -- led by the strong defensive pressure of Central’s four guards.

Central will continue to see zone defenses trying to limit the strength in the post. Along with that, it will take time for Central to build chemistry with one another. But the defense is something that can stay consistent.

The Golden Eagles forced a lot of turnovers and wore down Agawam with its full-court pressure in the second half. The defensive spark last year was Springer, who played the pressure defense like a safety. Robinson is ready to take on that role this season, as he was able to come away with three steals for easy buckets in Monday night’s win.

“That’s what I got to be,” said Robinson. “I have to be a leader just like he (Springer) was last year.”

Central was none for their late game runs in 2011-2012. With a new roster and a long way until March, Central’s constant late-game runs will more likely be a late-season run.

“It’s going to take time to gel,” said Labrie. ““We have to be patient as a coaching staff. We’re going to have to go through our lows and learn from our mistakes.”

Big night for Agawam’s Tyler Desrosiers: Kamari Robinson, a returning ESPN Boston All-State, poured in 31 points -- good enough for a team-high, but not the game high. That honor went to Agawam’s junior forward, Tyler Desrosiers, who ended the night with 42 points.

“I didn’t expect to do that,” said Desrosiers. “I just tried to do as much as I could for my team.”

The 6-foot-1 Desrosiers began the night be covered by the smaller Josh Malone and then later in the first half covered by Robinson.
He used a spin move several time to create space, split the defense, and squeeze into the lane for open shots. He had an impressive body control, double-clutching to avoid the long reach of Baldwin and Robinson.

Central slowed Desrosiers' production in the third quarter, with full-court pressure, as Central’s athleticism and speed began to break Agawam down.

“Defensively and rebounding were the biggest part,” said the junior forward. “After a while it just wore on us.”

Desrosiers came back with a rally in the fourth, including a fast break layup where he went up one-on-one with Baldwin. Coming down the right side, Desrosiers threw his body into Baldwin drawing the foul, while converting on the layup.

Agawam, although not known as a basketball power in Western Mass., starts off the season on a better note than just a loss.

“I think overall we’re not going to take it as a complete victory,” said Desrosiers. “We’ll be fine if we play like this going into the rest of the season.”

Scrimmage Slants: Springfield Central vs. St. John's (S)

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
12:43
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –- Notes and observations from today’s scrimmage between No. 1 Springfield Central, widely considered as the best team out of western Mass. this year, against St. John’s-Shrewsbury, Central Mass’ highest ranked team.:

Kelley the catalyst: The biggest surprise of this scrimmage was the play of St. Johns’ 6-foot-6 junior forward T.J. Kelley. Kelley played second-fiddle last year to forward Matt Palecki, but with the big man graduated, Kelley appears to be taking much more of a leadership role for the Pioneers. Returning All-State forward Kamari Robinson was matched up with Kelley on several defensive possessions for Central, but Kelley never faltered or backed down. He finished around the basket through contact all night, was the Pioneers' most consistent rebounder, and, when need be, even did a little ball handling for the Pioneers.

Central’s dominant frontcourt: Springfield Central’s post combination of 6-foot-5 senior Kamari Robinson and 6-foot-7 sophomore Chris Baldwin could very well be the MIAA’s best this year. Robinson helped lead Central to last year’s Division 1 State Championship, the program's first since 1991. The Golden Eagles had trouble at times getting their bigs the ball, and St. John’s 2-3 zone defense certainly didn’t help matters. For example, Baldwin only had two decent looks from the post the entire third quarter.

As Baldwin becomes more comfortable playing with new teammates, Robinson takes more of an assertive role offensively, and Central improves at guard, this Golden Eagles squad has the talent to make a deep run in the state tournament.

Young guns step up for SJ: It was clear from the start tonight that Coach Bob Foley completely trusts Davon Jones with the Pioneers offense -- not bad for a sophomore who was playing safety for the Pioneers in last Saturday’s Division 1 Central Super Bowl loss to Leominster. Jones showed clearly that he is one of the most reliable point guards in the Western half of the state.

Though his jumpshot may take a couple weeks to come back, Jones did a great job of running the Pioneer offense. He made a few big stops defensively, and he showed the quickness to penetrate Central’s defense on many different occasions.

Freshman Adham Floyd also played a big role for the Pioneers off the bench. A highly-touted 6-foot-1 guard, Floyd stepped up and gave St. John’s an extra ballhandler when Jones or senior Ken Harrington needed a breather. Sophomore Stefan Masciarelli was very efficient off the bench, scoring ten points on five shots.

Eagles’ point guard woes: Cornelius Tyson was huge for Central during their state title run last season, but it looks as if for the forseeable future, Tyson won’t be a part of the team due to academic ineligibility. The Golden Eagles graduated a lot of talent in the backcourt, including Lee Turner, Chris Prophet, and ESPN Boston Super Teamer Tyrell Springer. In addition, junior guard Cody Williams -- whom Central was expecting to carry the load at guard -- is out for three weeks due to an ankle injury sustained while quarterbacking the Eagles to the Division 1 West Super Bowl championship over Longmeadow. His cousin Ju’an, a junior and three-sport standout, got some significant minutes tonight at guard.

Roundtable: Preseason MIAA hoop primer

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
1:34
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With the first MIAA-sanctioned practices of the 2012-13 season set to commence tomorrow, today we're looking at the top storylines and top players from across the state.

Check back with us later in the preseason for our first Top 25 poll and our Preseason All-State Teams. But for now, here are the storylines to watch, and our projected Super Teams.

***

Brendan Hall
ESPN Boston High Schools editor


Reading Machine Rages On
Had it not been for Andover and superstar Nicole Boudreau, the Division 2 state champ Reading Rockets would have been garnering far more attention last season. The Rockets were one of the state's most dominant forces from wire to wire, going 25-0 en route to the program's first state title. They were one of the state's most explosive offenses (64.3 points per game), and blew out nearly everyone -- their average margin of victory was 27.1, with their only threats coming in the North final (49-46 over Arlington Catholic) and Eastern Mass. Final (71-64 over Scituate, in overtime).

The conversation in Reading starts with Richmond-bound guard/forward Olivia Healy, a two-time ESPN Boston All-State and one of the early favorites for our Miss Basketball award. The 5-foot-10 senior can play any position on the floor, excels on the boards, and is as physical as they come. But every superstar needs a supporting cast, and you can't do much better than Assumption-bound guard Morgan O'Brien in that regard.

With Andover expected to level off following the graduation of one of the MIAA's best ever (Boudreau), we're most likely looking at Reading starting the year at No. 1 in our statewide girls' poll, which will be released later this preseason.

Fierce, Fierce City A
Over the offseason, the Boston City League voted overwhelmingly to split into three tiers for boys basketball, based on competitive balance. And with it, the city's "A" division instantly becomes the state's toughest league. City A is comprised of Brighton, New Mission, Madison Park, Charlestown and East Boston -- all teams expected to start the season in our statewide Top 25 poll -- and with the new scheduling setup, we're looking at appointment viewing in the city nearly every night.

Charlestown-Eastie, Mission-Brighton and Eastie-Madison are the city's three fiercest basketball rivalries. Now, on top of those series, we're getting two installments of Mission-Madison, Brighton-Eastie, Charlestown-Mission, Madison-Brighton, and so forth. Brighton and MP figure to be the favorites here, but this is going to be an absolute grinder of a league. Of the highest degree.

Swat Team
Anyone that watched the University of Kentucky last season can tell you how valuable Anthony Davis was despite an unpolished offensive game. Heck, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four despite going just 1-for-10 from the field in the championship game.

Last year our Defensive Player of the Year award went to a guard, Stoughton's Marcus Middleton, but I'm looking at a number of frontcourt shot-blockers to contend for the award. Any conversation about swatters in the MIAA has to begin with New Mission's Isshiah Coleman, but keep an eye on Cambridge's Fredens Deneus, a 6-foot-6 junior who is expected to have a breakout season. Rockland's Tyler Gibson, a UMass-Lowell commit, will alter many a shot in the South Shore League. Also keep an eye on Holy Name's Dan Kegbeh, only 6-foot-1 but blessed with some impressive ups.

On the girls' side, Holy Name's Brianna Frias is my early favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot junior committed to Providence over the summer, and averaged six blocks per game last season as the Naps went 20-0 in the regular season and captured the No. 1 seed in Division 1 Central.

Sizzlin' Sophs
Across the state, there are a number of Class of 2015 players to get excited about. Springfield Central's Chris Baldwin has yet to play in an MIAA game, having played his freshman season down the street at Hillside School, but he is already garnering significant hype. Wakefield's Bruce Brown showed freak athletic ability at times during his freshman campaign for the Warriors, and figures to be regarded as one of the state's elite by season's end. Same for Mansfield's Brendan Hill and St. John's of Shrewsbury's Davon Jones.

Central Catholic junior Tyler Nelson is on the short list as everyone's favorite shooter, and deservedly so, but Newton North sophomore guard Tommy Mobley is as automatic as they come. He plays a different role for the Tigers than his older brother, 6-foot-8 Yale forward Greg Kelley, did several years ago. But when you talk about the elite shooters in the state, Mobley has the potential to be in that conversation.

Also keep an eye on Falmouth guard Craig Green, a three-sport star who's already on the radar for track and field. He turned many heads last June, when he placed third in New Englands in the 100-meter dash. He has run as fast as a 10.6 in the event so far in his young career.

On the girls' side, we all know the capabilities of Braintree's Molly Reagan. The 6-foot-1 center was a key cog in the Wamps' run to the Division 1 South title last March, and she already holds Division 1 offers. On the flip side, Archbishop Williams' Jaylen Williams committed to Penn State this past summer despite playing limited minutes for the Bishops.

But the potential speaks for itself. For one, Williams is 6-foot-3 and long. For another, there is plenty of pedigree. She is the daughter of former New England Patriots defensive lineman Brent Williams, and the younger sister of two high Division 1 college football players -- North Carolina offensive tackle Brennan Williams, and Ohio State linebacker Camren Williams.

Open Waters in the North
I'm not sure which will be the more interesting race in the North -- Division 1 girls, or Division 2 boys.

In Division 1 girls, we're looking at a number of contenders in the North. Nobody's counting out Andover in spite of the talent graduated, but it should be an interesting race in the Merrimack Valley Conference with Central Catholic and Billerica figuring to start the year high in many polls. Lincoln-Sudbury will be another contender, led by Lafayette-bound forward Ashley Lutz, as will be Lynn English and reigning Northeastern Conference MVP Catherine Stinson. The ultimate wild card might be Cambridge, led by Georgia Tech-bound guard Donnaizha Fountain. And don't count out Somerville, either, with Indira Evans in the fold.

Division 2 North will be an interesting bracket. New Mission returns a strong core, but so does Brighton, behind returning All-State guard Malik James, forwards Nick Simpson and Prince Unaegbu, and one of the state's best shooters, Daivon Edwards. Ditto Wakefield, with Bruce Brown expected to have a breakout year alongside seniors Kendall Hamilton and Mikol Blake-Green.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Girls
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
G - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway
G/F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
F - Ashley Lutz, Sr., Lincoln-Sudbury
C - Molly Reagan, Soph., Braintree

***

Ryan Kilian
Editor-in-Chief, New England Prep Stars


Central Reign
Can Central Catholic represent Eastern Massachusetts in the state finals this season in Division 1? Central returns a battle tested and veteran group that represented EMass Division 1 as the top seed in last season’s MIAA tournament. Central boasts key returnees Tyler Nelson, Joel Berroa, Doug Gemmell and Nick Cambio.

Veteran Sophomore Talent
Mansfield’s Brendan Hill and Wakefield’s Bruce Brown are two of the top returning players in Massachusetts. They are also only sophomores. Both sophomores started and lead their respective teams deep into tournament play as freshman and we can expect even bigger seasons from both this year.

Best Frontcourt?
Massachusetts has a very strong group of point guards this season but the depth in the frontcourt is down in part of the continued flood of players to prep schools. New Mission (Nate Anderson and Isshiah Coleman) and Central Catholic (Gemmell and Cambio) are at the top of the frontcourt ranks but look out for North Andover and Charlestown to also have improved front lines with the development of returning veterans as well as additions of new talent to the mix.

Replacing Boudreau
It will be impossible to replace two-time Miss Basketball Nicole Boudreau (Boston College), but Andover does return senior Devon Caveany, and the glue of the squad in top defenders Jackie and Rebecca Alois. Expect some more classic Central Catholic and Andover battles for years to come in the MVC.

Special time for City of Braintree
The city of Braintree boasts some the best young female talent in the state, with Braintree High School and Archbishop Williams sharing city quarters.

Braintree returns Coach of the Year Kristen McDonnell and a lineup featuring returning senior Rachel Norton, and sophomores Ashley Russell, Bridget Herlihy, and Molly Reagan. Archbishop Williams returns Southern New Hampshire commits Olivia Conrad and Sara Ryan along with Alana Gilmer and Penn State commit Jaylen Williams.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Bruce Brown, Soph., Wakefield
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
G - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Brendan Hill, Soph., Mansfield
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central

Girls
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G - Donaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge Rindge
G - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading
G - Tajanay Veiga-Lee, Sr., Fenway
F - Saliah Serrette, Sr., Weston

***

Chris Bradley
ESPN Boston correspondent


Springfield Central Is Back
Saying that Kamari Robinson and sophomore transfer Chris Baldwin are the best frontcourt in the state is no stretch. Robinson helped lead Central to last year’s division 1 state title, averaging a double double while the Golden Eagles went undefeated against MIAA opponents. The 6-foot-7 Baldwin is already drawing in interest from high major division 1 college programs. A strong, athletic forward who is known for his rebounding and sky-rising dunks, he’ll make quite a duo with Robinson, a member of last year’s ESPN Boston All-State Team.

Senior Cornelius Tyson could be primed for a big year as well. The 6-foot-1 guard made quite a showing in last year’s state championship game against Brockton, knocking down four 3-pointers in the second half to lead Central to the Division 1 title.

Can anyone knock off St. John's of Shrewsbury?
The Inter-High has two legitimate Top 25 teams in Worcester South and Doherty. Will this finally be the year that St. John’s doesn’t run away with the Division 1 tournament in Central Mass.? The Pioneers have won five consecutive Central Mass. Division 1 championships, and return yet another talented core from last year’s team. Sophomore point guard Davon Jones has already asserted himself as one of the best guards in the western half of the state, juniors Charlie Murray and TJ Kelley will be a tough duo on the post, and 6-foot-5 senior Ken Harrington is one of the best shooters in central Mass.

Brighton looking for revenge
Last year’s loss to Mahar in the Division 2 state title game was demoralizing to say the least for the Bengals, but another year of maturity should help Brighton come tournament time this year. Junior playmaking guard Malik James will be one of the very best in the MIAA, and he’ll have plenty of weapons around him with forward Nick Simpson and guards Theo Oribhabor and Daivon Edwards. The Boston City League will be a rock fight this year, but battle-tested Brighton will reap the benefits of a tough schedule come tournament time.

New Mission young, but talented
Sophomore guards Greg Bridges, Randy Glenn, and Juwan Gooding will make for quite a show this year when put together with 6-foot-5 forward Isshiah Coleman and 6-foot-7 forward Nate Anderson. The Titans will be young, with less experience at the guard position than many of their opponents, but when all is said and done this could end up being the most talented team in the state this year.

Who will emerge in D3?
Picking favorites in Division 3 is like splitting hairs. Wareham has Darien Fernandez, a waterbug considered one of the best point guards in the state. Danvers returns four starters from last year’s state title team. Quaboag has one of the best inside-out duos in D3 with Thomas Jankins and sophomore Jake Wisniewski. Hopedale has a deep, versatile lineup. Whitinsville Christian has won three straight central Mass. championships. Out in Pittsfield, St. Joseph Central returns the majority of their core from last year’s state finals team—including scoring guard Taverick "Tank" Roberson. Any of these teams could emerge and make a deep run into the tournament in February and March.

SUPER TEAMS

Boys
G - Malik James, Jr., Brighton
G - Tyler Nelson, Jr., Central Catholic
F - Jameilen Jones, Sr., BC High
F - Kamari Robinson, Sr., Springfield Central
F - Tyler Gibson, Sr., Rockland

Girls
G - Kayla Burton, Sr., Newton South
G - Sarah Hope, Sr., Medway
G - Donnaizha Fountain, Sr., Cambridge
F - Casey McLaughlin, Sr., Central Catholic
F - Olivia Healy, Sr., Reading

Bay State Games: Tyson ready to take flight

July, 11, 2012
7/11/12
1:38
PM ET
After an up and down junior year, Cornelius Tyson knows he has plenty to prove heading into his senior season.

The 6-foot-1 point guard from Springfield Central got an early jump on his 2012-2013 showcase last March, electrifying the DCU Center crowd with 16 second-half points to lead the Golden Eagles in a statement win over Brockton in the MIAA Division 1 State Championship.

And now, Tyson has been presented with another chance to pad his resume as a key member and starting point guard on the West squad as it takes aim at Bay State Games gold.

Tyson and Co. begin their quest Thursday with a pair of games against the Coastal and Northeast teams with the ultimate goal of playing for the shiniest medal possible on Sunday.

“We’ll do our best,” Tyson said. “We have a hardworking team and we’ll go out and give it everything we’ve got.”

That way of thinking is a good representation of the high-energy point guard, but things didn’t always fall into place so easily for Tyson.

Initially considered one of the region’s top players in the class of 2013 as a freshman and sophomore, Tyson hit a wall towards the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. He struggled a bit with grades and adjusted to life as a role player on a supremely talented Central squad, even enduring a suspension because of a failed class.

In the end, though, Tyson persevered and has come out with a reworked approach that has only helped him improve on and off the court.

“Last year was really rough,” Tyson said. “I had my ups and downs with school and basketball but I tried to stay focused and work hard.”

The improved Tyson was on full display in the state final when Central head coach Mike Labrie, having seen Brockton’s size and rebounding advantage lead to a seven-point halftime deficit, elected to go with a small lineup. Tyson came off the bench to spark the epic turnaround.

“That was just amazing,” said Tyson, who remembers only getting that hot a few other times but never in a game of that magnitude. “I was just feeling the moment.”

That feeling and that moment could also be obtained this week at Wentworth where the Bay State’s 11th and 12th grade squads are conducting their tournament. The West team is a bit undermanned, losing a handful of players who elected to stay with their AAU teams but Tyson, along with fellow state championship winner Jesse Lacroix from Mahar (Division 2), comprise perhaps the most talented backcourt in the entire tournament and could very well lead the West team to Bay State heroics.

“We look at Cornelius as our key player,” said West head coach Neal Quesnel, who has spent five years as a coach at South Hadley. “He shows up to practice every day and works hard. He’s a silent leader and lets his game do the talking for him. It’s fun to watch him in action.”

Quesnel is close with Labrie, who had nothing but praise for his soon-to-be starting point guard prior to the Bay State Games team selection process. Labrie commented on Tyson’s work ethic and attitude, saying that his state championship breakout was never an "if", but just a "when."

“It took some time but in the second half of the biggest game of the year, he came through and broke out,” Quesnel said. “The other guys on the court just feed of his leadership and energy.”

That energy was crucial to Tyson’s success last season for Central, following his struggles on the court and in the classroom. Once he regained focus, though, the energy and spark Tyson provided off the bench was a key factor Central’s run through regular season -- which included just one blemish, a loss to Connecticut power Windsor at the Hoophall Classic -- and state tournament.

“I think the experience that Cornelius brings our team is huge,” Quesnel said. “This year at Central, he learned how to win big, come from behind against Commerce in the Western Mass. final and in the state semifinal (against St. John’s).

“And he showed he can play well on the biggest stage in the state final.”

This is a crucial year for Tyson and his hopes to play basketball after high school. At this point, the goal is to continue to improve as a senior and lead Central back to the state tournament. After that, the plan is to go to prep school. Tyson considers Wilbraham & Monson Academy and Suffield Academy among his top choices.

Behold the Future: MIAA hoop teams to watch

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
6:49
PM ET
With the unveiling of our MIAA All-State Teams for Boys and Girls late last week, the 2011-12 basketball season has come to close. But before we officially slam the book on another exciting season of hoop, and move on to spring sports, I wanted to get out a few thoughts on the landscape for next season.

To whet your appetite for the 2012-13 season, here are my early projections on the state's must-see teams to watch:

BOYS

Central Catholic - Plenty of talent returning with this squad, which captured the No. 1 overall spot in Division 1 North despite missing Luis Puello (ankle) for most of the season. ESPN Boston All-State guard Tyler Nelson returns as one of the state’s top shooters, but the Raiders also return all three of their regular bigs in Joel Berroa, Doug Gemmell and Nick Cambio.

New Mission – Apparently it’s never too early for bulletin board fodder, because head coach Cory McCarthy is already making some barnstorming rounds, telling ESPNBoston.com this afternoon that if the Titans don’t win the Division 2 state title next year, “I should be fired.” Bold, yes, but it’s hard not to like a lineup of Isshiah Coleman, Nate Anderson, Greg Bridges, Damion Smith and Shaquan Murray. There is some promising talent in those ranks.

Mansfield – Folks are talking about the Hornets being one of the South region’s top teams in two years’ time, between promising freshman Brendan Hill and sophomore Michael Hershman. I’m of the camp that believes with those two versatile parts, paired with a terrific coach in Mike Vaughan, the future is now.

Taunton – Shaquille O’Neal Davis. That’s legitimately his full name, and one you certainly will not forget by this time next year, for reasons that have nothing to do with The Big Aristotle.

West Springfield – Terriers return virtually everyone, including Chris Lipscomb, Paul Bessette, Andy McNulty, Dewey King, and leading scorer Riyadh Asad. West Side is the early favorite next year in Division 1 West.

St. John’s (Shrewsbury) – Junior transfer Tarik Octave was one of the nice surprises of the playoffs, and freshman Davon Jones has shades of former Pioneers great David White all over him (Doesn’t hurt that Jones was also the Pioneers’ starter at safety last fall, too). A boat load of underclassmen return, including Ken Harrington and T.J. Kelley, which should more than make up for the graduation of Matt Palecki.

Danvers – Falcons graduate 6-foot-7 center George Merry, an ESPN Boston All-State selection, but return some terrific guards. Nick McKenna, Nick Bates, Eric Martin and Dan Connors can all shoot the ball, and are perfectly-suited for John Walsh’s four-out offensive system. My early pick to repeat at D3 champs.

BC High – Eagles return what ought to be one of the state’s best backcourts in point guard Charles Collins and ESPN Boston All-State swingman Jameilen Jones. Throw into the mix one of the region’s best basketball minds in Bill Loughnane (he of four state titles) and it’s hard to think of the Eagles as anything but a favorite in the South.

Springfield Central – A plethora of talent graduates, including Chris Prophet, Lee Turner, Jevaughn McMilian, and ESPN Boston Super Teamer Tyrell Springer. But All-State forward Kamari Robinson should have another terrific season, and the way Cornelius Tyson exploded onto the scene in the Division 1 state final makes us all wonder if he’s about to realize the potential that many in the Springfield area have been talking about for so long.

Stoughton – Super Teamer Aaron Calixte and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Middleton formed the state’s best backcourt in 2011-12. If all goes as planned, they’ll be well-equipped to defend that notion next season.

Wareham – Vikings might not endure an unbeaten regular season again next year. But another year of All-State point guard Darien Fernandez means they’re not going anywhere.

GIRLS

Braintree – Wamps started three freshmen this year: Ashley Russell, Bridget Herlihy, and 6-foot-1 center Molly Reagan. Expect them in conversation for state title contention from now until their time runs out in 2015.

Archbishop Williams – Ditto the Bishops, who have two 6-foot freshmen to look forward to the next three seasons. Add in sophomores Olivia Conrad and Leah Spencer, and their fiery mouthpiece Sara Ryan, and this could be another top-five team come December 2012.

Reading – The Rockets made a flawless run through the Division 2 gauntlet, winning their first Division 2 state title in school history as one of two final unbeaten squads in Massachusetts. Two-time Middlesex MVP and ESPN Boston All-State Olivia Healy returns, as does guard Morgan O’Brien.

Andover – Golden Warriors are expected to come down to Earth with the graduation of two-time ESPN Boston Miss Basketball, Nicole Boudreau, and UConn lacrosse commit Ally Fazio. What might be overlooked amidst Andover’s unprecedented run to a third straight state title is that there were plenty of terrific complimentary backcourt pieces in the underclass.

Central Catholic – Raiders treaded water after some injuries early on. But once junior forward Casey McLaughlin was back to full strength, they made a run all the way to the Division 1 North semifinals. Have to imagine they’ll be in conversation again next year.

Video: Central champs talk with ESPN Boston

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
9:40
AM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -- ESPN Boston High Schools Editor Brendan Hall caught up with Springfield Central's Cornelius Tyson and Tyrell Springer following the Golden Eagles' 67-46 win over Brockton, which earned them their first MIAA Division 1 state championship since 1991.

Video is courtesy of Greg Story:


Div. 1 Boys Final: Central 67, Brockton 46

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
2:06
AM ET
WORCESTER, Mass. -– Much of what followed halftime smelled like fiction, yet it was all true.

Almost two hours after Central entered the halftime locker room in the DCU Center with a 27-20 deficit, Central coach Mike Labrie walked out of the same locker room with an undone tie, disheveled hair and water still dripping from his face.

A split second later, the Massachusetts Division 1 state champion Golden Eagles followed him out the door.

The Golden Eagles came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to blindside Brockton 67-46. After trailing 35-34 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Golden Eagles scored 30 of the game’s next 38 points en route to outscoring Brockton 47-19 in the second half.

The final two quarters displayed everything Labrie has come to expect from his troops –- swarming defense led to offense, offense led to momentum, and momentum led to the theft of another opponent’s heart. But at halftime, with defeat hanging in front of Central’s face, Labrie needed to remind his team of its capabilities.

“We’re going to have a spurt,” he told his players. “We’ve never played a game without a spurt. We just have to ride the spurt.”

And ride it they did, like a wave that never ended, straight into Central history alongside ex-NBA player Travis Best. It was Best who led the school to its last state title in 1991.

This time, it was a junior reserve named Cornelius Tyson, who came off the bench to score 16 points, all in the second half. Tyson’s first bucket, a three, gave Central its first lead of the second half at 32-31. He followed with a no-look assist to Kevin Johnson on Central’s next possession, and added another triple before the end of the third quarter to give Central a 39-35 lead.

“The basket just started looking bigger,” he said.

And it wouldn’t stop growing. Tyson drove to the hoop and finished with his left hand to extend Central’s advantage to 46-39 early in the fourth quarter, sank a fade-away jumper off one foot to push the score to 50-39 a minute later, and then drilled two consecutive long bombs two minutes after that as Central’s lead ballooned to 62-42.

Said Central star Tyrell Springer, who scored 14 points, “He amazed me, man. It was so shocking. Not shocking maybe –- I knew he could do it. It was just a matter of him showing it. And he did. I’m so proud of him. Everybody here’s so proud of him.”

Brockton barely mentioned Tyson on the team’s scouting report, but Houston tried to warn his teammates.

“I played AAU basketball with Cornelius, so I know he’s a great shooter," Houston said. "I tried to tell my teammates to watch out for him."

But his urgings fell on deaf ears.

And why wouldn’t they? Tyson’s season high entering Saturday night’s finals was seven points. He averaged fewer than four points per game. The guard spent most of his 2012 season attempting to nudge his way into Central’s crowded rotation and hardly played any minutes against St. John’s in the state semifinals.

There were no warning signs that he would become a hero during the school’s biggest win in more than 20 years.

“Throughout the whole season, everybody was doubting him, saying he’s not that good, that he hasn’t been living up to his name,” said junior forward Kamari Robinson (12 points, eight rebounds), referring to a reputation Tyson built during the AAU and summer circuits. “He came out here today and balled. When the lights are on, it’s time to perform. And I really appreciate what he did today. That was a grown man performance right there.”

Labrie walked out of the locker room after the game, a state champion for the first time, and said he was shocked his players could still surprise him after so many years in coaching. He was referring to the water dousing that left him such a mess walking to the bus –- one player distracted him with a hug while the rest poured a bucket of water on Labrie’s head -– but he also could have been speaking about the Golden Eagles' play:

Central finished a 24-1 season undefeated in the state of Massachusetts, and saved its greatest trick for last.

Going Small Provides Big Returns: Without injured starting center Jevaughn McMillian, one of Western Mass.’s finest shot blockers, the Golden Eagles feared they would struggle to match up with Houston.

The first half did nothing to prove their fears wrong, as the 6-foot-6 Houston dominated the interior with nine points and 10 rebounds. But when Trevor Bacon, McMillian’s replacement in the starting lineup, got into foul trouble early in the second half, Central tried a new strategy -- a small lineup.

Though he would still finish with 17 rebounds, Houston failed to score a single point after halftime. Robinson and Kevin Johnson took turns as Houston’s primary defender. Both performed admirably in the role, and they had plenty of help.

“It seemed like I got triple-teamed every time I got the ball," Houston explained. "They were harassing me as soon as I touched it. I tried to find my teammates but nobody was getting open, so I tried to attack. It didn’t work."

“What happened with our speed on defense is that they were rushing their shots. We were closing out on them a lot better with the small guys. I was just really concerned about losing the board battle with that lineup, but they just gutted it out,” Labrie said.

Central often uses Springer as a free safety, and he created havoc when Houston caught the ball in the post. On one possession, he sneaked behind Houston and poked the ball away. On another, he dug down on Houston and swiped the ball off the big man’s leg.

“Springer was crucial in the post," Labrie noted. "They don’t have many weak guys, but we try to put him on their weakest guy so he can roam and help in the paint, and he did a terrific job."

Central’s small lineup seemed to overwhelm Brockton athletically, and the Boxers scored just 19 points after halftime. Thirteen of those belonged to Jamal Reuben, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Reuben repeatedly slashed to the hoop for good looks, but his teammates had less success.

“Our offense wasn’t flowing,” Reuben said, “and we weren’t running the plays the way they were designed. They came out energized and that’s what we needed to do.”

As usual, Central’s defense fed its offense. The more stops the Golden Eagles achieved, the more efficiently they scored.

"Once we locked up the big man, everything open up," explained Springer.

West Is (At Long Last) Best: Central’s title represented the first time a Western Mass. school won the Division 1 boys basketball state championship since 2004, when Commerce accomplished the feat.

During the entire state tournament, the Golden Eagles felt like they were playing for more than themselves.

Said Labrie, “We’re representing Western Mass. We’re representing the Valley League. We’re representing Central High School. We’re representing the students. It means a real lot. I think it’s been eight years since Western Mass. won it, and it just shows everyone that Springfield is back on the map.”

“I’m just happy I’m a part of it,” Robinson added. “We have some freshman and sophomores on the team, and even they were so hyped about it. They have more years to go, but some of them were still shedding tears.”

Lee Turner, who scored eight points, didn’t know how to react.

“As soon as that two minutes came and we were up 20, I shed tears,” he said. “I was laughing, I was crying, it was crazy.”

ESPN Boston's MIAA State Championship Picks

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
8:24
AM ET
The MIAA will crown six state champions in boys and girls basketball on Saturday at Worcester's DCU Center. Here are my thoughts on how those six games will play out:

DIVISION 3 GIRLS: PENTUCKET (22-4) VS. SABIS (21-5)
Pentucket Players to Watch: Tess Nogueira, Jr. C; Leigh McNamara, Sr. F; Sarah Higgins, Sr. F; Nicole Viselli, Jr. G; Alex Moore, Jr. G; Kelsie McNamara, Fr. G
Sabis Players to Watch: Jazmine Collins, Jr. G; Janaiya Sanchez, Fr. G; Shyanne Washington, Jr. F; Madison Sinkfield, Fr. F; Casie Thurber, Soph. C.
Analysis: After coming close the last couple of years, Sabis finally got over the hump in their competitive Western Mass. bracket, to land here at the DCU Center. Plain and simple, these Lady Bulldogs are on a mission; and led by a core that includes the dynamic Collins, this is a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately (and this will be the operative word for many of my picks), they run into a Pentucket team that is quite simply swarming on defense. The Sachems' lineup =is among the best in Division 3, and they're on a roll. Pentucket is also motivated -- the last time they were here, in 2010, the Sachems were penned as a favorite, only to run into a gritty Lee team that, quite frankly, pressed like kamikazes. Hall's Pick: Pentucket over Sabis

DIVISION 3 BOYS: DANVERS (20-4) VS. ST. JOSEPH CENTRAL (20-5)
Danvers Players to Watch: George Merry, Sr. C; Nick McKenna, Jr. G; Nick Bates, Jr. G; Eric Martin, Jr. G; Jon Amico, Sr. G.
St. Joe's Players to Watch: Taverick "Tank" Roberson, Jr. G; Mike McMahon, Sr. F; Joe Wiggins, Sr. F; Lavante Wiggins, Jr. G; Jon Bianchi, Jr. G
Analysis: Credit to St. Joe's for playing an ambitious non-league schedule, which included a rockfight of a bout with Holy Name back in December, and get ready to be introduced to the spunky power that is Roberson -- in my opinion, he's every bit of a tank as his nickname suggests. But after putting in arguably its best performance of the year Monday night in the Eastern Mass. Finals against Wareham, I'm convinced Danvers will come out on top in this one. the 6-foot-7 Merry can step out on the perimeter and facilitate offense for shooters like McKenna and Bates, as much as he can take it inside. Danvers coach John Walsh goes with some of the same offensive principles as his cousin Watertown head coach and two-time D3 state champ Steve Harrington. And if you thought Harrington's four-out, drive-and-kick, dribble drive-oriented motion offensive was frustrating enough, imagine what it's like with size.
Hall's Pick: Danvers over St. Joseph Central

DIVISION 2 GIRLS: READING (24-0) VS. TYNGSBOROUGH (23-1)
Reading Players to Watch: Olivia Healy, Jr. G; Morgan O'Brien, Jr. G; Melissa DalPozzo, Sr. F; Katie Clements, Sr. G; Katherine Callahan, Sr. G.
Tyngsborough Players to Watch: Lauren Iadarola, Jr. F; Amanda Hogan, Jr. G; Helena Hamilton, Sr. F; Morgan Mitchell, Jr. C.
Analysis: The Mid-Wach C champion Tigers avoided a clean sweep of Central Mass. on Wednesday with a dominant 50-35 win over Palmer out in Springfield, getting quality production out of Iadarola, Hogan and Hamilton along the way. But Reading has had the tougher route here, putting away stalwarts Wachusett, Bishop Feehan, Arlington Catholic (twice) and Scituate to get to DCU Center floor. Look for Healy to get hers, but most crucial in the Rockets' overtime defeat of Scituate on Tuesday night was the play of O'Brien, who scored 33 points. Look for her to be the X-factor in this one.
Hall's Pick: Reading over Tyngsborough

DIVISION 2 BOYS: BRIGHTON (21-4) VS. MAHAR (21-3)
Brighton Players to Watch: Malik James, Soph. G; Theo Oribhabor, Jr. G; Daivon Edwards, Jr. G; Prince Unaegbu, Jr. F; Jerard Mayes, Sr. F; Tre Dowman, Sr. C
Mahar Players to Watch: Travon Godette, Sr. F; Jesse LaCroix, Sr. G; Phil DiPhillipo, Sr. G; Josef Whitman, Jr. F; Nate Martin, Sr. C; Darwin Duncan, Sr. F.
Analysis: The relationship between Brighton coach Hugh Coleman and his mentor, legendary Charlestown coach Jack O'Brien, is well-documented. There are ripples of O'Brien's system and tactics sprinkled throughout the Bengals; and we can assure you, there are tons of coaches in Eastern Mass. rooting for Coleman, as good a guy as they come, on Saturday. That aside, the Bengals figure to be favorites in this one. Godette, DiPhillipo and LaCroix combined for impressive whipping of St. Bernard's on Tuesday, but they haven't seen anything like Brighton. Hardened by a brutal schedule, the Bengals lost their best player, sophomore Nick Simpson, before the playoffs, yet somehow haven't dropped off. There's plenty to like -- a frustrating extended 2-3 zone, a swarming press, and a gifted shooter in Edwards -- and I think this will be another big one for promising sophomore point guard Malik James.
Hall's Pick: Brighton over Mahar

DIVISION 1 GIRLS: ANDOVER (26-0) VS. HOLYOKE (22-2)
Andover Players to Watch: Nicole Boudreau, Sr. G; Ally Fazio, Sr. G; Devon Caveney, Sr. G; Angelice Gonzalez, Jr. G; Jackie Alois, Jr. F; Rebecca Alois, Soph. F.
Holyoke Players to Watch: Monique Heard, Sr. G; Alison Littles, Sr. C; Kirsy Segarra, Jr. G; Nyomi Walker, Jr. F; Selena Yates, Sr. G.
Analysis: Our friend and Pioneer Valley legend Adam Harrington is getting giddy over this "dream matchup", Western Mass.'s premier point guard versus, quite frankly, the best female guard to come through Massachusetts in over a decade. We think the crowd on hand will be impressed with Heard, but the Golden Warriors -- despite usually being undersized -- have proven again and again to be unstoppable. It just seems whatever the score is going into the fourth quarter, the Warriors simply turn around and take ownership of it. When you have a team of athletes that get up and down as quickly as these girls, plus a superstar with NBA range, that's a vicious combination.
Hall's Pick: Andover over Holyoke

DIVISION 1 BOYS: BROCKTON (23-2) VS. SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (23-1)
Brockton Players to Watch: Jaylen Blakely, Jr. G; Drew Fiske, Sr. F; Jahleel Moise, Sr. F; Jean Thomas, Sr. F; Will Baker, Sr. G; Sayvonn Houston, Sr. C; Jamal Reuben, Sr. F; Jarrod "Bubba" Shelby.
Springfield Central Players to Watch: Tyrell Springer, Sr. G; Lee Turner, Sr. G; Chris Prophet, Sr. G; Kamari Robinson, Jr. F; Jevaughn McMillian, Sr. C; Trevor Bacon, Sr. F; Cornelius Tyson, Sr. G.
Analysis: This might be the best matchup of the day. I picked Springfield Central to win it all before the tournament started; and since the Eagles are still in it, I'm sticking with the pick. The X-factor here might be the health of McMillian, a game-changing 6-foot-7 shot-swatter who injured his ankle in Tuesday night's thrilling semifinal win over St. John's (Shrewsbury). If he can't go or is less than 100 percent, that could make the matchup down low with Brockton's 6-foot-6 Sayvonn Houston -- by many accounts, one of the state's most efficient true five -- very interesting. Yet it seems the Golden Eagles thrive on adversity -- in the Western Mass. Final, with Springer and Prophet fouled out -- Robinson held his own to stave off a furious Commerce comeback bid. On the flip side, the Boxers have been on a mission since getting trounced by nearly 20 by Charlestown right before the start of tournament play. Blakely has been one of the best point guards of the tournament, and the Boxers have gotten crucial shooting out of Baker, Fiske and Reuben. Look out for Moise, an athletic shot swatter with quality defensive skills.
Hall's Pick: Springfield Central over Brockton

Who is the next big thing in MIAA hoop?

February, 26, 2011
2/26/11
7:03
PM ET
Every year, there is that one special player who erupts abuptly onto the basketball scene in March and puts many a college scout on notice. Think back to 2005, when Newton North's vicious backcourt of Anthony Gurley and Corey Lowe shone in the Tigers' first of two straight Division 1 state titles.

We saw it again in 2008, when Central Catholic's 6-foot-11 sophomore Carson Desrosiers filled the lane impressively and showed off his range for the Raiders in their D1 state title. We saw it again in 2009, when Lynn English's Ryan Woumn dropped 39 points on Brockton in the D1 EMass Finals. And we saw it again 12 months ago, when Pat Connaughton averaged 21.7 points and 19 rebounds as St. John's Prep made a surprise run to the D1 North finals.

So who is the next Connaughton, Woumn or Desrosiers? Below are nine underclassmen who could fit the bill.

JAKE LAYMAN, KING PHILIP
6-7, Jr. F

Why he matters: Layman has been nothing short of phenomenal for the Warriors this season, as they set a program record for wins (14) and ended a 15-year postseason drought. Averaging 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4.8 blocks on the season, and coming close to a quadruple-double in a game against Stoughton earlier this season, don't be surprised to see him put up those kinds of numbers in the postseason. UMass, Providence and Boston College have offered him, while Notre Dame, BYU and Texas A&M have shown heavy interest.
What opposing coaches are saying: “I think he could be a Dream Teamer this year, if you want my honest opinion. He’s one of the top three players in the state. He can jump out of the gym, shoot three’s, post you up, just an unbelievable talent…He can be the biggest prospect in the state of Massachusetts as far as I’m concerned. He is a major, major talent...His athleticism, he’s so athletic for a 6-9 kid, and like I said, he has point guard skills. Kevin McHale moves inside, three, four, five dunks a game, just stuff you don’t see in high school anymore. I mean he’s one of best players I’ve seen in last 15 years, to be honest with you...Holy God. The thing with him is how skilled is in all facets of the game, how he runs the floor, he's so athletic. He honestly, and I hate to use the same terms over and over again, but a very high ceiling."
Scouts Inc.’s analysis of strengths: “A long and athletic player, Layman has a terrific set of physical tools. He stands a legit six-foot-seven with great length and a solid frame which will eventually support a good deal of muscle mass. He is a very good athlete and gets his head on the rim between his length and leaping ability. He has good touch on his jump shot and projects as a very good three-point shooter down the road with a little refinement to his technique. He is a potentially versatile defensively who can change the game with his length on top of the press.”
ESPN's Adam Finkelstein: “Jake Layman may have more upside than anyone in the MIAA. At 6-foot-7 with long arms, a good frame, and athleticism that allows him to get his head on the rim he is the prototype high-major forward. He doesn't yet realize how good he is but has a tremendous future in front of him.”

JARED TERRELL, WEYMOUTH
6-2, Soph. G
Why he matters:
The sophomore led the Bay State Conference in scoring (15.1 points) this season, and while those aren't eye-popping numbers, Terrell is a sight to be seen. In the mold of slashers like Charlestown's Akosa Maduegbunam, Terrell is an off-guard in a linebacker's body, able to create his own shot off the dribble but at his best when charging through the lane. Quite simply, there are few in Massachusetts with such physical maturity at this age. He's drawing an assortment of Division 1 interest, from the Atlantic-10 all the way up to schools like Washington and Clemson.
Opposing coaches: "Jared Terrell is one of the purest athletes running around, if not the best athlete running around in the state. I think when he eliminates his dribbles and everything else like that, and just looks to take it to the hole, he can't be stopped...It's tough to make a comparison, because I think he's one of the top two athletes in the state. But as his progress keeps going up, I mean the sky's the limit. Historically? I don't know, because I'm not ready to give anything to these new jacks yet, but if I were to make a comparison I'd say his older brother Royce."
Scouts Inc.: "Terrell is a power guard with a strong body and bouncy athleticism. He is as aggressive as he is powerful, getting after people on the defensive end and going hard to the rim offensively. He is a versatile defender who can make plays in full court pressure situations and also lock up opposing scorers in the half-court, bodying up with his upper body without fouling. Offensively, he has a good first step and quick springs and shows no fear attacking shot blockers."
Finkelstein: "Jared Terrell is as explosive of a guard as you will find in the MIAA. He is powerful and athletic, allowing him to go through contact to make plays above the rim. If he can add a consistent jumper to his offensive repertoire his recruitment will go to the next level."

AARON FALZON, NEWTON NORTH
6-7, Fr. F/C
Why he matters:
While Falzon isn't the Tigers' top scoring option -- that falls unto guards Mike Thorpe and Avi Adler-Cohen -- the younger brother of senior Tevin Falzon is a game-changer in the middle. With his long arms and ability to step out to NBA-range three's, he has already drawn comparisons to former Tigers great and current Yale freshman Greg Kelley. The sky is the limit for Aaron, as the 14-year-old continues to grow and fill out.
Opposing coaches: “I think his ceiling is just through the roof, he is certainly super skilled for a big kid. He has a very good touch. Right now, facing the basket is where he's best, but as he gets stronger he'll get more confident down on the low blocks. He's real tough...For us, the problem with him is clearly the size advantage. But in general, he's so skilled. With him, if a typical big guy covers him, you can draw them away from the basket, because he's got range up to and beyond the three-pointt line. The few times I've seen him go to the blocks, he's very skilled, and has versatility on defense with his length, but he's a real nice player...He's very similar [to Kelley], at 6-7 when you can draw guys out like he did. If he can extend the defense and open up shots in the lane for guys like Thorpe and Adler-Cohen, he's a tough guard for us."
Finkelstein: “Aaron Falzon fits the new style big man in that he has the size to play down low but the skill set to step away and stretch the defense. With three more years to continue to develop his game and body, he has a chance to be a very highly pursued prospect if he continues to do the right things.”

JACQUIL TAYLOR, CAMBRIDGE
6-9, Soph. C

Why he matters: Taylor dominated the glass this year for the 19-1 Falcons, and has served as a wonderful complement to guards Deondre Starling, Kyroe Qualls-Betts and his brother, 6-foot-5 junior Maurice. There may not be a longer starting five in the state than Cambridge, and at the center is Jacquil, who runs the floor well for a player his size and can change momentum in a snap with one of his thunderous two-handed slams. A handful of Division 1 schools, including UMass and BC locally, have expressed interest.
Opposing coaches: “He is a diamond in the rough. He’s going to be real good, high-major maybe, with his shot blocking ability and rebounding ability. He’s not as good as Nerlens Noel, but he’s that type of player...His length is his strength, I'd say right now -- defensively especially, and on the glass, too. I think his offensive game will get better, but in terms of what he does around the basket, he's impressive...Jacquil has tremendous upside. I think he's getting ready to have breakout in the state tournament this year. Both him and his brother Mo are two outstanding basketball players."
Finkelstein: "When you are big and mobile you have a chance to be very good and that's exactly what Jacquil is, not to mention a long lefty. His potential has never been questioned but now it's time to turn those tools into production on a consistent basis."

ADAM BRAMANTI, MASCONOMET
6-2, Jr. G
Why he matters:
One of the Cape Ann League's leading scorers (19.7 points per game), he is the cousin of Andover star Joe Bramanti, and could be ready to carve a name for himself on the family tree. Like Joe, he is an exceptional shooter -- most recently, Adam hit seven 3-pointers in a game with Manchester-Essex in late January -- who can give good chase on the perimeter.
Opposing coaches: “He’s a fantastic shooter. If he’s on, it’s in. I’ve seen him hit nine, 10 three’s in a game, he’s fantastic. He can work a little bit on his dribble-drive and finishing, but as far as being a shooter, he’s top-notch.”
Scouts Inc.: “A very skilled guard with a high basketball I.Q. and terrific feel for the game, Bramanti is well schooled in the fundamentals of the game. He is an excellent three-point shooter who makes shots with deep range and also changes speeds with his dribble to get himself into the lane. He is a very efficient scorer off the catch, being tremendously efficient with his body movements, and owning a terrific shot fake. He always has his head up, has very good court vision, and can deliver quick passes off the dribble with a quick flick of his wrist.”
Finkelstein: “Adam Bramanti is a super skilled young guard with a high basketball I.Q. and instinctive feel for the game. Give him a year or two for his body to catch up, and his stock is bound to take off.”

KEANDRE STANTON, LYNN ENGLISH
6-6, Jr. F
Why he matters:
In short, the junior is another one of those under-the-radar prospects. Stanton has had a breakout campaign this season for the 19-2 Bulldogs, complementing electric senior Travonne Berry-Rogers very nicely with his slashing ability in the post. With his size, length, and athletic ability on the break, Stanton has drawn comparisons to former English great Jarell Byrd, who is currently doing a post-graduate year at St. Thomas More (Conn.).
Opposing coaches: “We’re athletic, [but] he’s freakishly athletic. The things he can do, even when he attacked the rim off the bounce, he tried to get a dunk a few times. He went right at us. Jimmy [Zenevitch, of Central Catholic] scores a lot, but he is also a good defender as far as bigs, and this kid went right at Jimmy. He’s a great player, incredible athlete, and he’s going to be a handful in the tournament...He’s real skinny, but has a lot of athletic ability. He needs to play more. He has some big upside, too, but he needs to work on his ballhandling skils before he moves on to a higher level, because that’s what he’ll be with his size.”
Finkelstein: “Keandre Stanton has proven his worth this year at Lynn English but is still relatively unknown outside of Massachusetts' borders. A strong state tournament could be the first step towards a breakout summer.”

TYLER NELSON, CENTRAL CATHOLIC
5-8, Fr. G
Why he matters:
The freshman, who is averaging nearly eight points a game off the bench, could very well end up winning a game for the Raiders in the postseason. He scores in bunches, often coming into the game and knocking down a pivotal three-pointer. When bringing the ball up, he directs traffic in the half-court calmly but smartly, and is unafraid to bark orders at one of his senior teammates. Overall, he's shown a maturity well beyond his years in his rookie season on the Raiders' varsity -- of course, it doesn't hurt that his father is an advance scout for the Utah Jazz.
Opposing coaches: “He’s probably the best shooter in the state, and that’s no lie -- he’s a deadly shooter. He’s a baby he could only be an eighth grader for all we know, but the stronger he gets the better he’ll get...He’s gonna be a scholarship player someday, he has a real high basketball I.Q., no lie.”
Finkelstein: “Tyler Nelson gives Central Catholic a big boost with his three-point shooting and looks to have a very bright high school career in front of him. Any player who can make shots in bunches has a potential niche at the next level.”

NATE ANDERSON, NEW MISSION
6-6, Soph. F
Why he matters:
Anderson is still relatively unknown on the big stage; and between the Titans' star-studded backcourt of Samir McDaniels, Darius Davis and Kachi Nzerem, the young Anderson gets a limited amount of touches, and often comes off the bench. With his ability to handle, Anderson's future with Mission could be in more of a point forward role, though in the possessions he plays around the rim he shows adept skill and rebounding and blocking. In short, Anderson's a question mark right now, but a year from now could be a firm exclamation point. A good run in the playoffs, though, could serve his stock well.
Opposing coaches: “He has big upside, and we’ll see that the more he plays and the more touches he gets. He’s gonna be going to college somewhere, very athletic. He’s good.”
Finkelstein: “Nate Anderson has all the physical tools for the next level with a long and strong body to match his high level athleticism. He makes his biggest impact on the defensive end right now but has shown good potential as a face-up four who can attack less mobile big men with his dribble.”

CORNELIUS TYSON, SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL
6-1, Soph. G
Why he matters:
After a strong summer with the New England Playaz, the sophomore brought a considerable amount of hype with him to the Golden Eagles. And needless to say, at 11-9, they've grossly underperformed after starting the year off at No. 6 in ESPNBoston's MIAA Top 25 poll. This may be a head-scratcher, considering he's averaging just six points a game, but it's hard to ignore his creativity and the praise he's earned out of season.
Opposing coaches: “Corn is quick as lightning, great little stroke, great on-ball defender. He’s fearless, he’ll step in and take a charge against 6-11 kids, he doesn’t care...He’s a great point guard with great instincts, knows how to find the open man, get to a guy going through the air, he’s talented. On the AAU circuit, he’s a 20-point scorer.”
Scouts Inc.: “A talented young point guard who already has a good understanding of how to distribute the basketball. Tyson has terrific court vision at a young age, makes good decisions handling and passing the ball against pressure, and can also get into the lane to create shots for himself and his teammates. He has also developed into a consistent shooter from behind the three-point arc. He has a terrific feel for the game for such a young player, already making good use of jab steps, jump stops, and other crafty maneuvers to open up passing/driving lanes.”
Finkelstein: “Tyson is a good looking young point guard who shows a mature understanding of the position for someone his age. He not only hits the open man but also has the creativity and vision to make plays for his teammates, making him very unique.”

OTHERS TO WATCH

Aaron Calixte, Soph. G, Stoughton
Matt Droney, Jr. G, Catholic Memorial
Joey Glynn, Jr. F, Cardinal Spellman
Jameilen Jones, Soph. F, BC High
Jarrod Neumann, Jr. G/F, Northampton
Kenny Reed, Jr. G, Reading
Colin Richey, Soph. G, Whitinsville Christian
Damion Smith, Fr. G, West Roxbury
Michael Thorpe, Jr. G, Newton North

Brendan Hall is a high school editor for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Five More Players to Watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
6:50
PM ET
Most local high school basketball fans are already familiar with the exploits of Pat Connaughton, Dennis Clifford, Khem Birch and the many stalwarts at St. Mark's and Tilton. But as we await the first tip-off of the 2010-2011 MIAA season, here are five more players to keep an eye on, with evaluations courtesy of Scouts, Inc.:

Jules Tavares, 6-3, SG, Sr.
Hometown: New Bedford
School: New Bedford
Scout's Take:
Strengths:
Tavares is a productive two-way player who already understands the importance of impacting the game defensively. He is a terrific athlete with good size and quickness for his position that allows him to be a terrific on-the-ball defender, both pressuring the ball for the entire length of the court and also locking up the opposition's best perimeter scorer in the quarter court. Offensively, Tavares is a driving scorer who has a quick first step to the rim and good bounce and body control finishing inside a congested lane. He has a naturally soft shooting touch and also instinctively knows how to create space in the mid-range area.
Weaknesses:
Tavares feel for the game is still a work in progress offensively. He can be a bit of a "kamakazi driver" at times, forcing low percentage plays off the bounce and consequently being a little turnover prone. He would do well to also expand his general ball skills, as ability to handle and pass the ball could stand to improve, especially against pressure. While Tavares has a soft touch on his jumper, he has a tendency to short-arm his release and would be a much more consistent shooter if he finished the stroke with more consistency.
Bottom Line:
Tavares is a talented player and high level athlete who makes his impact felt on both sides of the ball. He is a terrific on the ball defender and accomplished slashing scorer who needs to continue developing his ball skills and basketball I.Q. in order to maximize his potential.
Joe Bramanti, 6-1, SG, Sr.
Hometown: Andover
High School: Andover
Scout's Take:
Strengths:
As physically tough and hard-nosed as they come, Bramanti is a role player extraordinaire who coaches will love and opposing players will hate. A natural competitor with a chiseled frame, Bramanti is a very good defensive player who guards the opposition%u2019s best player on a nightly basis and never gives away anything easy. He can play either guard position offensively, make open shots from the perimeter, attacks the rim hard to play through contact, and has a very soft mid-range touch.
Weaknesses:
Bramanti is more of a two-guard than a point and lacks ideal size or athleticism. He can struggle to handle the ball against aggressive pressure from quicker players and isn%u2019t nearly as consistent of a shooter when rushed. He rarely plays above the rim and is only a role player offensively. He would do well to further develop his ball-handling skills in order to be a more consistent secondary ball-handler at the next level.
Bottom Line:
Pretty skilled and tough as can be, Bramanti is the type of player who will help a team win games at the next level. He may not be a point guard or end up scoring a lot of points, but he can change the game defensively and raise the intensity level of those around him.
Cornelius Tyson, 6-1, PG, Soph.
Hometown: Springfield
School: Springfield Central
Scout's Take:
Strengths:
A talented young point guard who already has a good understanding of how to distribute the basketball. Tyson has terrific court vision at a young age, makes good decisions handling and passing the ball against pressure, and can also get into the lane to create shots for himself and his teammates. He has also developed into a consistent shooter from behind the three-point arc. He has a terrific feel for the game for such a young player, already making good use of jab steps, jump stops, and other crafty maneuvers to open up passing/driving lanes.
Weaknesses:
A simple lack of experience may be Tyson's biggest limitation at the moment, as he really only needs more time playing and competing against a high level of competition for his game to mature to the next level. As his body continues to grow and get stronger he should become a better finisher inside the lane, but will also need to become a more disciplined defender.
Bottom Line:
A talented young player who has an instinctive feel for seeing the floor and passing the ball, Tyson is unique because he projects as a pure point guard who has the size and skills to make plays for himself and others.
Adam Bramanti, 5-10, PG, Jr.
Hometown: Topsfield
School: Masconomet
Scout's Take:
Strengths:
A very skilled guard with a high basketball I.Q. and terrific feel for the game, Bramanti is well schooled in the fundamentals of the game. He is an excellent three-point shooter who makes shots with deep range and also changes speeds with his dribble to get himself into the lane. He is a very efficient scorer off the catch, being tremendously efficient with his body movements, and owning a terrific shot fake. He always has his head up, has very good court vision, and can deliver quick passes off the dribble with a quick flick of his wrist.
Weaknesses:
Size and strength are Bramanti's biggest weaknesses right now as he can be physically overwhelmed by a higher level of competition. He can be rattled into speeding up his game when pressured by those more physical guards and would also do well to play lower to the ground when attacking off the dribble. He works defensively but doesn't own blinding quickness and can be overpowed in certain match-ups.
Bottom Line:
Bramanti is tremendously skilled and cerebral with a very efficient game. He shoots it with range, finds his teammates, and makes plays off the catch and the dribble. While his upside may ultimately be limited by his physical gifts, he is definitely maximizing his abilities.
Jared Terrell, 6-1, SG, Soph.
Hometown: Weymouth
School: Weymouth
Scout's Take:
Strengths:
Tarrell is a power guard with a strong body and bouncy athleticism. He is as aggressive as he is powerful, getting after people on the defensive end and going hard to the rim offensively. He is a versatile defender who can make plays in full court pressure situations and also lock up opposing scorers in the half-court, bodying up with his upper body without fouling. Offensively, he has a good first step and quick springs and shows no fear attacking shot blockers.
Weaknesses:
The two major questions about Terrell are his size for his position and the consistency of his jump shot. At the moment, he is an undersized two-guard who would need to develop not only his ball skills but also his basketball I.Q. and feel for the game in order to see any time at the point. He also must become more of a shooting threat from the perimeter as defenders are able to give him a big cushion because his drive is so predictable at the moment.
Bottom Line:
Terrell is a physically gifted guard who plays hard and makes plays on both ends of the floor. Moving forward his stock will rise according to how well his ball skills progress.


Five Things We Learned at Elite 75

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
12:04
AM ET
The third annual "New England Elite 75 Showcase -- Frosh/Soph Edition" took place on Saturday at Boston University’s Case Gymnasium and included many of the top underclassman prospects the New England region has to offer. The event featured two sessions, with the freshmen taking the court in the morning and the sophomores in the afternoon.

Here is a look at five lessons we learned after taking in the day’s action:

1. Noah Vonleh is a Potential Star in the Making

Haverhill High School sophomore Noah Vonleh stood out as the most impressive prospect at the event. What sets him apart is a combination of three factors. First, he has the talent to dominant his peers right now. Second, he has demonstrated the work ethic to consistently improve his game. Third, his physical upside is tremendous. Vonleh only recently celebrated his 15th birthday and already stands 6-foot-7 with a strong body. He could still be growing and is certainly still growing into his body and consequently hasn’t nearly peaked athletically. He has terrific economy of motion, taking the ball off the defensive glass and going coast to coast in three or four dribbles and only requiring a single bounce to get to the rim in a half-court set, to go along with a rapidly developing skill set. If this young man continues to work hard and make good decisions, the sky could be the limit.

2. The Class of 2013 has Tremendous Depth

New England has some very well known talent in the class of 2013. Connecticut native Kuran Iverson is the second ranked player in the country and Everett native Nerlens Noel is third, according to ESPNU’s most recent Terrific 25 list. But beyond the obvious star power of Iverson, Noel, and Vonleh the region, and the state of Massachusetts specifically, has great depth in the class. Beaver Country Day guard Rene Castro already owns a scholarship offer from Boston College, Brimmer & May’s Jake Fay has one from UMass, and a variety of others in action on Friday had the potential to earn similar opportunities including Milton Academy’s Ikemefuna Ngwudo, Cushing Academy’s Andrew Chrabascz, Springfield Central’s Cornelius Tyson, and Weymouth’s Jared Terrell.

3. Getting to Know the Class of 2014

This was our first major opportunity to check out the incoming freshmen and there was plenty to like. Milton’s Jeremy Miller has the size and raw talent to potentially be a high level prospect down the road. Fellow big men Aaron Falzon (Newton North) and Bonzie Colson Jr. (St. Andrew’s) have similar upside. There are plenty of talented local guards including Lawrence Academy’s Johnnie Vassar, Cushing Academy’s Idris Taqqee and Stoughton’s Jonathan Joseph. The state of Connecticut also offers a particularly talented group with the likes of Jared Wilson-Frame, Levy Gillespie Jr., Winston Morgan and Kahari Beaufort.

4. Prep Talent Arriving Earlier than Ever

New England has always been the hub of prep school talent in the country, but it used to be that talented players only arrived for their post-graduate, or sometimes senior, seasons. Saturday’s event showed they are now coming much earlier and opting to play in the NEPSAC for multiple seasons. Some of the event’s top prospects, like Northfield Mount Hermon’s Dekeeba Battee, Worcester Academy’s Asur Madison, Winchendon’s Dennis Green and the Kent School’s Travis Berry are all from outside of the region but are boarding students at local prep schools.

5. One Year Can Make a Big Difference

There was a notable difference between the morning and the afternoon session as the sophomores delivered a significantly higher quality of play. The biggest difference was obviously physical as players were bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic given the extra year of physical maturity. But the other interesting trend was the higher caliber of basketball acumen. Some examples were more obvious as the sophomores tended to both share the ball more as well as play without it, but others were more subtle like looking into the post, using jab fakes or understanding how to defend from the weak side of the floor.

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